Flounder Simmered in Spicy Sauce (Bplah Dtom Saep)

“Entered for safekeeping, from Kasma Loha-Unchit's "Dancing Shrimp" (northeastern Thailand), although I will probably halve the number of chillies for my personal preference, as the recipe as written is fiery. This can be served soupy, or reduced to thicken and concentrate flavors. Great left-overs. The sauce is also good for poaching sea bass and swordfish. Thai palm sugar is subtle with caramel notes, but brown sugar may be substituted in a pinch. One medium shallot = 3 tablespoons minced shallot. Serve with rice and a vegetable side dish.”

Ingredients Nutrition

  • 1 lb large fillet flounder or 1 large fillet dover sole or 1 large fillet red snapper or 1 large fillet rock cod fish or 1 large steak halibut
  • 8 whole white peppercorns
  • 6 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 6 -10 Thai chiles (prik kee noo)
  • 3 shallots, chopped (9 tablespoons or to taste)
  • 1 tablespoon palm sugar (or brown sugar if palm sugar is unavailable)
  • 1 cup water (1 teaspoon at first, then rest added after palm sugar has turned color)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and finely slivered (1 inch ginger root)
  • 1 tablespoon peanut oil
  • 2 -3 tablespoons fish sauce (nahm bplah)
  • 2 -3 short fresh cilantro stems, for garnish


  1. Rinse fish and drain well. Cut fillet in half. In a mortar and pestle, pulverize peppercorns. Add garlic and chillies and pound together until pasty. Add chopped shallots. Continue to pound to make a coarse, well-blended paste (Peppercorn-Garlic-Chillie Paste).
  2. Put palm sugar in wok with 1 teaspoon water. Heat over low to medium heat, and stir until the sugar has turned dark reddish brown, but not burned.
  3. Add remaining water and Peppercorn-Garlic-Chillie Paste. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve palm sugar.
  4. Add ginger, peanut oil, and fish sauce. Stir to mix, then follow with the fish.
  5. Return to a boil before lowering heat to a level at which the sauce simmers gently.
  6. Simmer for 5 minutes, turn fish over and continue to cook uncovered until it is cooked through and sauce has thickened. If a lot of sauce remains, remove fish from the wok onto a serving dish. Increase heat to high and reduce sauce by one-third to one-half.
  7. To serve, spoon sauce over fish and garnish with cilantro sprigs.

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